Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2022


If we accept that at least some kinds of nonhuman animals are persons, a variety of paradoxes emerge in our ethical relations with them, involving apparently unavoidable disrespect of their personhood. We aim to show that these paradoxes are legitimate but can be illuminatingly resolved in the light of an adequate understanding of the nature of persons. Drawing on recent Western, Daoist, and Zen Buddhist thought, we argue that personhood is already paradoxical in the same way as these aspects of our ethical relations with nonhuman animals, and in fact is the source of their paradoxical character. In both contexts, depth and shallowness turn out to be internal to or crucial parts of each other, with logically anomalous consequences. We try to show that the character of this paradoxical relation between depth and shallowness in the nature of personhood involves a crucial inflection in the case of nonhuman animal persons that allows us to make sense of and resolve these ethical paradoxes.


This is an Author's Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Philosophy in the Contemporary World, Spring/Summer 2022. Copyright © 2022 Philosophy Documentation Center available online at: